Ariel mermaid

Ariel as portrayed in The Little Mermaid.

Princess Ariel is a fictional character, a mermaid and the protagonist of Disney's 1989 animated film The Little Mermaid. She later appears in the film's prequel television series, direct-to-video sequel The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea and direct-to-video prequel The Little Mermaid: Ariel's Beginning. Ariel is voiced by Jodi Benson in all the above animated material.

The character is based on the protagonist of Hans Christian Andersen's "The Little Mermaid" story, but was developed into a different personality for the 1989 animated film adaptation. Her distinct appearance consists of long, flowing red hair, blue eyes, a green tail and a purple seashell bikini top. Until Giselle of Disney's 2007 film Enchanted, she was the only Disney Princess to have red hair.

Ariel is one of the meetable face characters at the Walt Disney Parks and Resorts.



Ariel's original design was developed by animator Glen Keane, who reportedly said in an animation lecture that she was based on his own wife.[1] Ariel's appearance was also based on female model Sherri Stoner, who provided live-action references for the animators during the development of the film.

A challenge in animating Ariel for the 1989 film was the color required to show Ariel in the changing environments, both under the sea and on land, for which the animators required thirty-two color models, not including costume changes. The blue-green color of Ariel's fin was arguably a hue specially mixed by the Disney paint lab; the color was named "Ariel" after the character.[2]

Voice castingEdit

Jodi Benson, who was predominantly a stage actress when she was cast, was the choice to voice Ariel because the directors felt "it was really important to have the same person doing the singing and speaking voice". Co-director Ron Clements stated that Benson's voice had "sweetness" and "youthfulness" that was unique.[2] When recording the vocals for Ariel's theme song "Part of Your World", Benson reportedly asked that the lights in the studio be dimmed, so to create the feeling of being deep under the sea.

Fictional biographyEdit

The Little MermaidEdit

Main article: The Little Mermaid (1989 film) As depicted in the 1989 film, Ariel is the youngest of King Triton's seven daughters (being 16 years old). She is shown as being adventurous and curious about the world of humans, a fascination which angers her father as merfolk are forbidden from making contact with the human world. Her best friend in the film is a fish named Flounder, and she develops a close relationship with a crab named Sebastian. Ariel salvages human items and keeps them in a secret grotto as part of her collection.

Over the course of the film Ariel saves the life of and falls in love with a human prince named Eric. She visits the sea witch, Ursula, to trade her voice for legs for three days in order to get a chance to win Eric's heart, not realizing that this agreement is part of Ursula's bigger plan to trap Ariel's father, King Triton. Ariel almost manages to win the agreement by getting the "kiss of true love", but is stopped by Ursula's underhanded tactics. When the three day limit has passed, Ariel returns to mermaid form and is claimed by Ursula. King Triton trades himself for Ariel, enabling Ursula to claim the trident. In the battle that follows, Eric destroys Ursula by ramming a derelict ship's splintered prow through her enlarged torso. When the film ends, Ariel is transformed into a human permanently by King Triton's trident, and marries Prince Eric.

Ariel's theme song, which is referred to by Disney crew as the "I Want" song[3], is "Part of Your World", which she sings in her secret grotto proclaiming her fascination for human things. The song was originally going to be cut from the final film, due to the claim that it slowing the story down, but Howard Ashman reportedly fought to keep it in.[3] A reprise of the song is featured a little later in the film when Ariel declares that she wants to become part of Prince Eric's world.

Prequel television seriesEdit

Main article: The Little Mermaid (TV series) The prequel series, which first debuted in 1991, takes place an indeterminate time chronologically before the 1989 film, and revolves around Ariel's adventures as a mermaid living under the sea. Most of Ariel's adventures involve her meeting various creatures, getting in trouble, and usually getting out of it successfully. Her friends Flounder and Sebastian are also featured prominently in the series. Ariel continues to be fascinated with human things in the series and is shown collecting items for her grotto.

Prince Eric is sometimes shown in the show, but Ariel always just misses seeing him, preserving the continuity that she sees him first in the 1989 film.

The Little Mermaid II: Return to the SeaEdit

Adult Ariel

An older, more mature version of Ariel, as seen in The Little Mermaid II. Ariel and her daughter Melody have certain similarities in terms of personality and appearance

Main article: The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea

This 2000 direct-to-video sequel shows Ariel as having given birth to a daughter named Melody. When Melody's safety is threatened by a sea witch named Morgana (sister of Ursula, who was killed in the 1989 film), Ariel and her husband Eric decide they must keep Melody from the sea, and to this effect, build a large wall separating the castle from it. Melody's love of the sea proves too strong, however, and when Melody falls into Morgana's clutches, Ariel is forced to temporarily resume her mermaid form in order to rescue her.

This sequel features Ariel becoming an overprotective parent for her daughter, effectively taking over the role of her father in the 1989 film. As of 2009, Ariel is the only Disney Princess to have been depicted as becoming a mother.

Main article: The Little Mermaid: Ariel's Beginning

In the 2008 prequel set one year before the events of the film, an opening prologue shows Ariel as a very young mermaid, living a happy life with her father, King Triton, and mother, Queen Athena. After Athena is killed, a devastated King Triton bans all music from Atlantica. Ariel and her sisters grow up into teenagers not knowing music and living under the King Triton's strict rules. Ariel eventually discovers a secret underground club where music is played, and there she sings the song "I Remember", which helps her remember her distant past surrounded by love and music. Later (with assistance from Sebastian) Ariel finds her mother's music box and returns it to King Triton, who changes his ways and allows music back into Atlantica.

Music albumsEdit

Due to the success of the 1989 film, a series of music albums were released as part of Disney's The Little Mermaid franchise and featuring Jodi Benson singing in-character as Ariel. Among these albums are:

  • "Sebastian from The Little Mermaid" - Ariel sings two full tracks, "Dancing Mood" and "Dance the Day Away", and provides supporting vocals in "Day-O (The Banana Boat Song).
  • "Splash Hits" - This album features a few songs used in the prequel series and other original The Little Mermaid songs. Ariel sings about half the tracks on the album.
  • "Songs from the Sea" - Features entirely original songs, and Ariel sings the majority of the tracks.

Ariel is also included in the various albums that have been released as part of the Disney Princess franchise. The most prominent song for the franchise is "If You Can Dream", which features solos by most members of the Disney Princess group including Princess Jasmine, Cinderella, Princess Belle, Pocahontas, Princess Aurora and Fa Mulan. Snow White has been excluded due to unknown reasons. Jodi Benson sings as Ariel in this line as well.

Stage musicalEdit


Sierra Boggess as Ariel in the stage musical. Photo by Joan Marcus.

Main article: The Little Mermaid (musical) A stage musical version of the 1989 film had its world premiere in Denver, Colorado in 2007 for its pre-Broadway tryout, and on January 10, 2008 debuted on Broadway. The character of Ariel for the stage adaptation was originated by Sierra Boggess. Jodi Benson, the original voice actor for Ariel, attended the musical's opening night.[4]

A few new songs were added to the score, accompanying the songs in the film that were moved to the stage. "The World Above" is Ariel's introductory song, replacing the entire shark-chase sequence in the film. In Act 2, although Ariel has become mute, she sings two songs expressing her thoughts and feelings, these songs being "Beyond My Wildest Dreams", where Ariel explores the human world for the first time, and "If Only", in which Ariel bemoans that she cannot express her feelings to Eric. Additionally, Ariel's voice can be heard in the extended opening of "Fathoms Below", although she is not seen on-stage.

The stage musical features new plot elements not present in the film. It is explained through dialogue that Ariel inherited her mother's singing voice, adding another layer to Triton's protectiveness of her. Ariel and Eric's romance is expanded from the film, as explored in a musical sequence "One Step Closer" where the pair dance together. In the climatic battle, it is Ariel, not Eric, who destroys Ursula by smashing the magic shell. The reason for this change was that the musical's creative team did not want Ariel to come off as passive and because it was easier to stage (and more dramatic).

Other appearancesEdit

Theme parksEdit

Ariel makes regular appearances in the Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, having a special location called Ariel's Grotto at most of them. Ariel also makes cameo appearances in Peter Pan's Flight at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom and in It's a Small World at Hong Kong Disneyland. She also has a major role in Mickey's PhilharMagic and stars in her own live stage shows at Disney's Hollywood Studios (Voyage of the Little Mermaid) and Tokyo DisneySea (Mermaid Lagoon Theater). A dark ride based on the movie was designed for Disneyland Paris but never built, it has since been announced that a re-designed version of the attraction is to be built as part of the major expansion for Disney's California Adventure. She is also featured in Fantasmic! at both Disneyland and Disney's Hollywood Studios.

Disney's House of MouseEdit

Main article: Disney's House of Mouse Ariel appears as a regular guest in the animated television series Disney's House of Mouse and its specials. Her appearance alternates irregularly between her human form and her mermaid form, depending on what the situation requires. These appearances are not part of the animated film continuity. Jodi Benson continues to provide Ariel's voice in this series.

The Little Mermaid (NES game)Edit

Main article: The Little Mermaid (video game)

Taking place after Eric skewered Ursula in the original film, Ariel and Eric are planning to wed, but the sea-witch Ursula (somehow resurrected) has taken control of the ocean. So Ariel becomes a mermaid once more and sets off to rescue the sea.

The game takes place from a side view and Ariel (swimming most of the time, but hopping around on the land occasionally) can shoot bubbles to trap her foes and can then throw them at each other. She can also dig through sand to find treasure and pick up sea shells to break chests open with. The treasure she finds in the sand is usually just bonus points, but the treasure you find in chests will increase your bubble's power and range. [5]

Although this game is not canon, this exact situation where Ariel had to be turned back into a mermaid would be duplicated in The Little Mermaid 2: Return to the Sea where she dives off a much larger boat (Eric's lead fleet ship) rather than his rowboat in the NES game.

Kingdom Hearts series Edit

The Kingdom Hearts video-game series uses elements from various films in the Disney animated canon, integrating and reinterpreting the stories to fit into the game's plot as the playable characters travel into different kingdoms or "worlds". The 1989 The Little Mermaid film and the kingdom of Atlantica are included as part of the game play.

Kingdom Hearts Ariel

Princess Ariel as seen in the Kingdom Hearts series.

Kingdom HeartsEdit

Main article: Kingdom Hearts In the first game, Ariel's story is similar to the 1989 film, but in addition she's to deal with Ursula's attempt to use the Heartless to defeat King Triton. Ariel can be one of Sora's party members for this world. She encounters Sora as a merman (with a dolphin tail instead), Donald Duck as a male cecaelia, and Goofy as a sea turtle. She is the only Disney Princess featured in the game who is not one of the Princesses of Heart and also the only female fighter to join the party up until Mulan.

Kingdom Hearts: Chain of MemoriesEdit

Main article: Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories In this second game, Ariel is a character in Atlantica; but one in Sora's mind. Here, Ursula kidnaps Flounder and baits Ariel into stealing her father's trident. Ariel brings Ursula the trident, believing that Flounder has been taken to the human world, and learns the truth when she does. After helping Sora defeat Ursula, she resolves to tell her father what happened.

She can be acquired as a Friend card after visiting the Key of Guidance room. Using the card causes her to swim across the arena, injuring any enemies she strikes.

Kingdom Hearts IIEdit

Main article: Kingdom Hearts II As in the first Kingdom Hearts, Ariel's story is almost a mirror of the 1989 film's plot. Songs in this world are "Swim This Way", "Part of Your World", "Under the Sea", "Ursula's Revenge", and "A New Day is Dawning". There are some slight changes from the film, among them being:

  1. The musical numbers "Poor Unfortunate Souls" and "Kiss The Girl" are removed.
  2. The deal between Ursula and Ariel is made in the Courtyard instead of in Ursula's cave.
  3. Sora, Donald and Goofy push the human Ariel to the surface instead of Sebastian and Flounder.
  4. Ariel already has clothes on immediately after her human transformation.
  5. Eric throws the trident — as originally storyboarded for the film — to defeat Ursula.
  6. Eric is conscious after Ursula is defeated, speaks with Ariel as a mermaid for a longer time, and eventually asks her if she'd teach him how to swim.

Disney Princess franchiseEdit

Main article: Disney Princess Ariel is one of eight characters in the Disney Princess line, a prominent franchise directed to young girls. The franchise covers a wide variety of merchandise, including but not limited to magazines, music albums, toys, clothes and stationery. Ariel is usually depicted in her mermaid form on the merchandise, but also appears in human form wearing her blue dress, white wedding dress or pink dress. The Disney Princess magazine features comics and posters of Ariel, usually in mermaid form.

Of all the Disney Princesses, Ariel is the only one who is originally not completely human to begin with, the only one to have been depicted as having a child, and the second of three to be featured naked (the others being Cinderella and Mulan).

Other Disney mediaEdit

In the film A Goofy Movie, the main characters stay in a motel that is decorated according to an oceanic theme, and the room lamps are in the shape of Ariel in her mermaid form, with red hair, purple shells and green tail.

Ariel also makes a cameo appearance in the Roger Rabbit short Roller Coaster Rabbit on a sideshow poster at the carnival.

Non-Disney mediaEdit

The character of Ariel has been referenced and parodied many times in various unrelated media, occasionally making unofficial "cameos". Some of these appearances are listed below.

  • The animated television series Futurama contains a few references to Ariel. In the episode "The Series Has Landed", a female robot called The Crushinator says "No, Daddy, I love him" to her father referring to Bender, a line which was uttered by Ariel towards her father in the film.[6]. The line is also used in the Seinfeld episode "The Bottle Deposit part 2" where Kramer discovers Newman being chased out of a farmhouse in Michigan by a farmer with a shotgun after it is revealed that Newman slept with his daughter, an act which the farmer forbade earlier in the episode. The daughter later responds with the phrase "No daddy, don't hurt him, I love him".
  • In the episode "The Deep South", the main characters' ship is dragged to the bottom of the ocean where the lead character, Fry, encounters a mermaid similar to the fashion in which Ariel first meets Prince Eric except certain situations reversed. The mermaid's name is Umbriel and she hails from the lost city of Atlanta.[7] Of note, Ariel and Umbriel are both moons orbiting Uranus, named for two of the sylphs in Alexander Pope's The Rape of the Lock.
  • The webcomic Penny Arcade also makes a joke on this subject when Gabe remembers his younger "Undersea adventures" or, rather, his attempts at having them.[9]
  • In the NES video game, Skate or Die 2, The girlfriend of the playable character, CJ, is based on Ariel in design [11]
  • In 2004's Shrek 2, during the "Accidentally in Love" song sequence, a giant wave comes in washing Fiona away to reveal Ariel. Fiona grabs her by the tail and throws her in the ocean.


Ariel is one of Disney's most iconic animated characters, and her specific color combination of red hair, purple sea shells and green tail make her distinctly identifiable.[2] She has become an iconic character for children and young women to impersonate; some frequently donning home-made costumes of Ariel's green tail and seashell top, and seen swimming about in pools in amateur home videos on sites such as YouTube[12] [13]. Many amateur artists on art sites such as DeviantArt also model their own mermaids after Ariel, some claimed to be different characters though certainly inspired by her[14]. Fansites devoted to the iconic Disney princess are not uncommon; and there is even an bi-annual convention dedicated to her (and other TLM characters) called ArielCon[15]

Ariel is an official "ambassador" for the "Keep Our Oceans Clean" campaign by Environmental Defense, The National Maritime Sanctuary, and The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.[16]

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